Food news: Ghee-Lightful
We tend to think of ghee as an ingredient that's used only in Indian food, but Sophie van Dijk, a young food entrepreneur based in Co Louth, is on a mission to change that, and to introduce Irish chefs and home cooks to its delights.
The Ballymaloe Cookery School graduate, who is just 26, has launched Dollop Ghee: a ghee made from 100pc Irish butter which she is producing in Dundalk, Co Louth.
"Butter is made up of butterfat, milk solids and water," says Sophie. "Butter is clarified when the water evaporates and the fat separates from the milk solids. Ghee goes one step further, when the clarified butter is simmered to toast the milk solids. The fat turns a deep golden hue and becomes nutty-tasting and aromatic. The toasted solids are then filtered out, leaving pure ghee.
"It is a nutrient-dense fat that's thought to aid digestion, with a delicious taste and a smoke point of 252˚C. Aside from its more traditional uses, ghee provides a great alternative to olive oil, butter or coconut oil when frying or roasting . A dollop of ghee is also delicious stirred into rice, cooked vegetables or even porridge."
Sophie says that her lightbulb moment came when she was a student at Ballymaloe. "There was a fabulous Indian lady on the course who was raving about ghee made from Irish butter.
"It was obvious - Irish ghee! Irish dairy is the best in the world, and great butter makes great ghee."
Sophie launched Dollop at the start of the year and is already stocked in more than a dozen outlets between Co Louth and Dublin. She says that feedback has been "incredible" and she has now teamed up with a distributor so that she can start supplying more independent retailers, and start to develop a catering-sized offering.
Sophie says that one of the most popular uses for ghee is for frying eggs. "For a fried egg that is crispy around the edges, with a just-set white and a pop-able yolk, you need to fry in a fat that can withstand heat. Ghee is not only well able for the level of heat required, but also gives an indulgent, buttery flavour. In a hot pan, simply melt a large dollop of ghee, and crack in an egg, leaving it to sizzle until it is crisp around the edges."
RRP €6; stockists include Cavistons and Lilliput Stores; dollop.ie
TEA AT LISMORE CASTLE
Lismore Castle in Co Waterford hosts its annual Devonshire Cream Tea on 'Devonshire Day' on Sunday, March 25. Guests can enjoy afternoon tea in the castle's Pugin Room and a tour of the Upper and Lower Gardens. €25pp, call 058-53803 or 058-54975 to book.
Applications are open for this year's €30,000 Cottage Market Fund, promoted by GIY and supported by the Ireland Funds. Community groups can apply for start-up funds for new markets until March 23, at thecottagemarket.ie and giy.ie, with 10 new markets due to be supported.
USE IT OR LOSE IT
The bad weather was devastating for small, independent restaurants, many of which had struggled through January only to have to close for several days because of the snow. If you haven't visited your local recently, why not try and book in for Mother's Day tomorrow, or a night out soon?